Global Training Report Archives 1997-2017

 

@

The Art of Selling Self-Defense

 By Robert Drysdale

Special Guest Column

September 1, 2017

@

Robert Drysdale's BJJ and grappling accomplishments are too well-known to need retelling here. Below, he shares his opinions on "self-defense" in the martial arts industry.

@

Perhaps the most overly debated topic within Martial Arts, as well as its biggest financial draw, is the category of gSelf-Defense.h It is virtually inseparable from combat disciplines and are often bundled up into the same category. People seek Martial Arts, for a number of reasons, Self-Defense likely being the prime one. The possibility of acquiring skills that could potentially save onefs life, or that of a loved one, has secured the Martial Arts a role in the upbringing of millions of children and adults worldwide as well as an entire industry that capitalizes on this. Fear is indeed a powerful sales tool.

 We should begin by defining and distinguishing the ends of the spectrum between Combat, Martial Arts, Competitive endeavor and practice:

 Combat

In its purest form, Combat has no regulations or rules of engagement, it is the most gruesome face of War that overlooks morality, casualties, fair-play and damage with the sole purpose of victory in its sight. Albeit, parties can often agree to a given etiquette in war (i.e. codes of honor and conventions), whether these will be followed or not, is not to the point, but their mere existence sets a precedence for rules-of-engagement that define Combat and give a form of Art its shape, both in technical as well as in strategic terms.  

Martial-Arts in Gyms

In this sense described above, the term Martial-Arts, as understood today, holds little in common with the Roman divinity that grants it its name. It is largely specific to a sub-category very removed from the reality of Combat I describe, since it often assumes rules of engagement that may or may not be applicable to the situation (with or without weapons, number of opponents, etc.)  Much of it, in fact, closer to folklore than Combat in the sense described above (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu not always exempt here). This sub-category of self-defense is where many academies thrive.  

We can debate what sort of role hand-to-hand Combat holds after the invention of steel and gun-powder, regardless of where you stand in this regard, it is undisputable that it has lost much prominence due these technologies. In its civilian form, Martial-Arts has the appeal of promising protection not only against weapons, but against all sorts of physical threats set forth by modern society and, as the logic of markets would have it, a wide array of skills are made readily available to a lay audience hungry for the ability to defend their families. Which creates a situation of lack of quality control when it comes to these products. Unlike other products, Martial-Arts doesnft have a FDA equivalent to seek out its validity and effectiveness, with potentially harmful effects, a topic I will return to later.

 Sport Version

 Others elect the Sport oriented version of Martial-Arts. It is possible, and likely, that the Self-Defense approach to training is a bigger attraction for the lay person to enroll in a gym, yet, it is unlikely to keep someone in the gym for as long, due to its often monotonous and excessive amount of repetition whilst being devoid of the endorphin filled glive-rolling.h I feel confident to say that the Sport version of Jiu-Jitsu does a better job at not only creating long-term practitioners but, at least in contrast to some Martial-Arts styles and schools (although I wouldnft generalize) of better preparing students for real-life situations (a topic I will discuss further below) than schools who focus on memorization and lack live resistance in their practice. With this in mind, the Sport version, largely focuses on techniques that are often removed and devoid of any effectiveness in the real-world (i.e. lapel, sleeve, belt and pants dependent techniques, which the opponent is unlikely to be wearing in a real-situation. Although a jacket or a pair of jeans could possibly be used as a substitute). Regardless of preferences and opinions, what Sport oriented moves can and cannot possibly be effectively used in a live-situation must be assessed case by case.

 The Practice of Self-Defense

 Often referred to as gTraditional Martial-Artsh and perhaps encompassing the majority of schools offering Self-Defense, they focus primarily on this approach with its rhetoric of discipline, respect, tradition, philosophy and anti-bullying they thrive in the lay market and excel more at marketing than at actual fighting. In more recent years, some branches of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu have drifted in this direction. Forgetting, perhaps ignoring, the historical fact that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu largely launched itself into prominence by doing the exact opposite of what these Traditional Martial-Arts sell. In fact, early Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu exponents made a name for this Art, as well as for themselves, by gdojo-stormingh other gyms, challenging other practitioners to fights, engaging in street-fights, recording it all and then releasing the tape as gproofh of the effectiveness of the Art they practiced. In fact, one may call this an act of bullying. After all, where is the merit in putting someone who has no idea what a Triangle Choke is into one?

 I donft believe anyone is in the position to determine what Jiu-Jitsu is, or any Martial-Art for that matter, or isnft. That is strictly a personal decision one makes as to which style one wishes to adhere to. Whether it is a Self-Defense oriented one or a Sport oriented one. With that out of the way, it is crucial to take a close look at what all these styles and their variants are currently promising to their clients as well as if they are able to uphold any of these promises.

 It is ironic, to say the least, that albeit the insistence in the Self-Defense in the curriculum of many Martial-Arts schools, with their claim to be preparing practitioners for a Combat situation, they are the least able to do so. I write this as someone who was seen both ends of the spectrum, from the technically unfit and unrealistic repetitions of the Traditional and Self-Defense version, to the gAs Real as it Getsh version of being inside a cage. Where are Martial Arts techniques put to the test? Has any of them been proven in any way that resembles a real-situation (something that approximates to the Scientific method)? Claims and stories fall short of such standards, there probably are, after all, such claims made by Shaolin masters who can spinning flying kick and down three opponents.  

Reality has no mercy, and the real world does not allow for fantasies. Unfortunately for those who seek efficiency yet fall under the spell of so called Masters. Such contradictions, inconsistencies and, at least in some instances, straight out charlatanism, have implications, not only for the future of Martial-Arts as a whole but for those who trust the people who teach them.  

The problem with the repetition of strikes and locks, while devoid of live-sparring, is that it teaches the subject to memorize moves, rather than react to your opponentfs offense and defense. The problem with memory is two-fold: on one end, it is not a greflexh ingrained into your nervous system, and hence, may delay an appropriate and prompt reaction in a game where timing is a fundamental element; additionally, memory is contingent on what the individual has learned. And considering it is impossible to memorize the infinite amount of reactions your opponent is capable of, your defense and offense are entirely dependent on your opponentfs offense and defense being part of your memorized arsenal, as well as dependent on your memory promptly serving you an appropriate reaction.  

Hence, the importance and realism of live-sparring as the only form of effective Self-Defense, because it teaches the practitioner to not only react to your opponent (not relying on memory) but to adapt and improvise to the infinite amount of actions made by the opponent. The gcookie-cutterh model of fighting couldnft possibly predict this.  

But which are the efficient techniques for fighting? The Sport of MMA has, in this sense, served as a glaboratoryh for trying out the plethora of techniques made available by all Martial Arts. In a sense, the gAs Real as It Getsh show, has become the closest thing we possess to a Scientific approach to fighting. A process of selection takes place in the cage that is quick to select the fittest of all skills whilst eliminating the unfit ones.

 However, one may wish to twist and turn these events, the fact of the matter is that much of what is being taught in Martial Arts schools, if it is not being used in MMA, there is a good chance it is simply ineffective for real-fighting and, thus, belongs solely to the Sport and Folklore realms. Granted two observations: a) The Sport of MMA is still young and it is not clear yet which set of techniques will be established into its repertoire. Additionally, even unlikely and low-percentage moves may have its place in this arena under certain conditions and may be subject to practice and opportunity; b) MMA, by being a sport, does not allow for a number of skills that could potentially be efficient in a real-life situation (i.e. eye gouging, groin strikes, biting, etc.)  

With these observations aside, it is clear to me that MMA is the most effective form of fighting devised. Even when we account for the illegal moves that could potentially work in a real-fight, MMA, by being a practice and live-sparring style, is still light-years ahead of other Martial-

Arts who, although may include these illegal techniques in their arsenal, still lack the practice and live-training necessary to properly prepare the body for real-time reactions, keeping the impracticality of training eye-gouges in mind.

 There is another fundamental element that is missing thus far in this discussion, namely the unpredictability of a real-situation. Most street-fights, do not occur in a controlled environment where the terrain, time and rules are preset. Elements such as the floor (i.e. soft, wet, hard or uneven), obstacles (i.e. chairs, tables, people, curbs, etc.), number of opponents (which can change throughout the fight) availability of weapons or not (which can vary from guns, to knifes, to bottles, to sticks, etc.) make for too many shifting and unpredictable scenarios to allow for proper preparation or even the usage of efficient techniques you would be able to utilize under other circumstances (i.e. the wall that got in the way of you taking your opponent down, or the mount that, all of a sudden becomes inefficient because you are fighting two opponents.)

 It may prove difficult for a live-sparring with weapons to take place, fire-arms or not. Difficult, yet, not impossible. The development of live-sparring with plastic knifes or guns can provide the practitioner with enough experience to efficiently react to a live-scenario. Keeping in mind the unpredictability of the surroundings adds layers of danger, particularly when weapons are present, that could potentially make any attempt at defending oneself more life-threatening than life-saving.

The infinite variability of factors in this equation make the prediction, and thus preparation, for the situation in question at best difficult and subjective. Once again, live-sparring, by emphasizing quick reactions and reflexes being, as I see it, the most efficient approach to Self-Defense. It is worthy of notice, and somewhat ironic, that childhood fights, as I recall them, were embedded with a sense of honor (accepting defeat and restraining from revenge) and the acceptance of rules of engagement (no biting, no interference from friends, etc.) The same canft be said of adults.

 Real situations, being totally unpredictable, should be dealt with care. Much of what is taught in Martial Arts schools is sheer fraud with the purpose of profiteering, while it has the double negative effect of potentially harming, rather than saving, by creating a false sense of security in the practitioner that she or he is indeed prepared to engage in defense. When the safest option is, normally, to flee.  

Martial Arts disciplines have touched the imagination of millions of people around the globe. It promises to build self-esteem, to protect, to turn us into healthy (body and mind) individuals and to teach discipline, respect and camaraderie. It is, indeed, an appealing product to a fearful audience eager to absorb these values and skills. For all its benefits, Martial Arts have been largely commercialized, and as the logic of self-deceit versus reality would have it, they have targeted to most gullible in an attempt to make a quick profit.  

The gMastersh should not take the whole of the blame here. We ought to be responsible for our poor decisions and our lack of critical thinking. To tap into the naivety of worried parents, is, in a certain sense, a form of conning. To accept charlatans at their word is to encourage and reinforce the con. Fighting, like other human endeavors ought to be met with the highest standards of skepticism. If not for the sake of onefs money, then for their lifefs sake.

 

 (c) 2017, Robert Drysdale. All rights reserved.

The opinions expressed above are those of the author.

Other Guest Columns by Robert Drysdale on GTR:

1. Robert Drysdale is "Skeptical" about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu History.

2. Robert Drysdale Disagrees with Rickson Gracie

@

@

@

@

GTR Publications

@

@

@

@

@

Choque 1, 3rd Edition (June 1, 2016)

@

@

@

Choque 3, 1961-1999

(Updated June 1, 2016)

@

@

@

@

Choque 2, 1950-1960 

  June 16, 2016)

@

@

"

Jiu-Jitsu in the South Zone, 1997-2008 

@

@

@

@

@

@

Digital Editions are also available

GTR Archives 1997-2017

@